Friday, August 28, 2015

Taco Bar for a Party of 24!

Having a taco party is a wonderful way to offer a meal that doesn't have to be eaten at a table - really important when having a large party. There were 24 including my husband and I at our recent get together. A few later arrivers didn't eat, so we did have leftovers for supper and lunch the next day. But it could have just as easily been all gone.

I learned this technique when visiting my brother and his family in Colorado Springs. My sister in law cooked the taco meat she liked ahead of time. Then she brushed cookie sheets lightly with vegetable oil.  Small flour tortillas were placed on each - as many as would fit with no more than a tiny overlap. She brushed each tortilla lightly with oil, flipped them over and brushed the other side.  Then taco meat was placed down the middle of each.

The oven had been preheated to 350 degrees.  A cookie sheet was placed on each of the two racks (my oven has 2 sections, so I can put in 3 sheets in at a time).  Let them heat just until the tortillas start to bubble a bit. You don't want them really brown as they get too crispy and break apart when eating. You want them hot, but a bit on the softer side so they fold easily.

When ready, just pull the trays out of the oven and have guests grab a paper plate, a taco or two. Then they add their toppings of choice as well as any additional side dishes you've chosen to round out the meal (I have those I chose listed below). While there is a lot of prep to doing this for a large crowd before they arrive, by the time the door bell starts ringing it's dead easy.

To take this on - start by making a list of everything you want to serve and print out recipes.  Then on another piece of paper go through every ingredient on every recipe, listing each item needed. Stopping to run to the store during prep time is the last thing you want.

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Here we go - 3 Meat Taco Bar for 24!

Meat -
3.5 lbs.             Crock Pot Beef Carne Asada - recipe HERE
4 lbs.                Marinated, BBQ'd Chicken Breast strips - see below
8 - 9                 Crispy Tilapia Fish Filets with Mango Pineapple Slaw - recipe HERE

Toppings - 
A few kinds of salsa - mild to hot
Prepared or homemade guacamole
Shredded lettuce
Prepared or homemade Chipotle Mayonnaise
Optional - shredded cheese, sliced black olives, pickled jalepenos, etc.

Other - 
40 - 50  Very small Flour Tortillas (about 5")
Extra large cookie sheets or foil oven liners.
Store bought or homemade citrus based
                  marinade for the fish.

To fill out the menu -
Make-ahead side dishes I offered -
             1. New Potatoes with Wild Onion Pesto
             2. Rainbow Slaw
Fruit and Vegetable trays are good choices
A dessert bar tray - Costco has a great one
Beverages - Here is what I offered.
              1. Water infused with Strawberry, Cucumber and Mint Leaves
              2. Water infused with Orange and Pineapple slices
              3. White Sangria Base Mix - see recipe HERE. Fill wineglass with 1/2 mix and
                    1/2 ginger ale (non-alcoholic) or 1/2 mix and 1/2 White wine (alcoholic). Add ice.
                    I doubled the base mix for a party this large. Needs a large container if you do this. I
                    used a big glass jar with tap.
              4. Suggest guests bring wine and beer.
Note - The night before -  for #1 and #2, just add the desired flavour ingredients to a pitcher,
                  fill with water and let set covered on the counter overnight. In the morning give it a good                     stir and then put it in the fridge to chill.
Meat - 

The day before -  
1. Cook Carne Asada, cool and store in fridge
2. Cut Chicken Breasts into small thin strips.  Place in large Ziploc bag. Add 2 tsp Salt, 2 tsp Chili Powder, 1 tsp Garlic Powder, 1/4 C Vegetable Oil, 3/4 C Fresh Lime Juice. Mix all ingredients well and marinade overnight in the refrigerator.
3. If using frozen Tilapia filets, place in fridge to thaw.
4. Cut up all vegetables for Rainbow Slaw and Mango-Pineapple Slaw. Store them in separater Ziploc bags without dressing.
5. Make the onion pesto for the new potatoes. Store in fridge.
7. Prepare infused waters.
8. Prepare White Sangria Mix that needs to be made. This has to be
             kept cool because of the fruit juices, so if there isn't room in the fridge, put in in a cooler
            surrounded by ice. (Note - When doubled this is needs a bigger container and I had no more                 room in the fridge, so I placed it in a cooler and surrounded with ice overnight.)
9. Put a table cloth on the table if desired and set out all serving dishes, plates, napkins and glasses.

The morning of the party -
1. BBQ the chicken strips until thoroughly cooked. Store until ready to serve. If really early - in the fridge for safety, but bring them to room temperature before you start the tacos.
2. Fry the fish fillets and set aside.
3. Set Carne Asada on counter to bring to room temperature.
4.  Roast the new potatoes, toss with pesto and place in a microwaveable
    casserole with lid. Reheat in microwave about 10 minutes before you pop the tacos in the oven.
5. Put the slaw mixes in bowls, add dressings, cover and store in fridge until party time.
6. Put all taco building ingredients in bowls, cover and store in fridge until party time.

This is what I used to store the
double batch ofWhite Sangria Base Mix
30 Minutes before guests start arriving - 
1. Set out all salads, taco building ingredients and place small bowl of vegetable oil, basting brush, 3 meats and oven trays beside stove.
2. Set out all drinks (wait on ice until they start arriving).
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When you're ready to start serving the tacos -
Lightly brush your baking sheets or oven liners with oil. Place a single layer of tortillas on each (6-8 depending on tray size). Brush each lightly with oil, flip and brush the other side.  Place a bit of meat (or a fish slice) on each (1/3 of each kind of taco per tray), then place the tray in the oven until heated through and the tortillas are just starting to crisp. Have guests grab a plate and pick up the taco of their choice. Then they can head over to the table to add toppings and side dishes.

You did it!  This is a great summer meal for a crowd and probably the one I received the most positive response for.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Welcome, Reluctant Stranger! (Between Two Worlds - Book 3) by E Journey

Welcome, Reluctant Stranger! by E Journey
Book three in the series - Between Two Worlds
Review of Hello, My Love! (Book 1) - click HERE
Review of Hello, Agnieszka! (Book 2) - click HERE

"Welcome, Reluctant Stranger interweaves a love 
story into a late of past political intrigue and Leilani's
inner journey, accepting her past."


Frantic flight, peaceful life. Act of treason on an island country. Cauldron of warring emotions. Exotic beauty, ace with a gun. Hunk with gifts for mockery and cooking.

Nine-year-old Leilani and her family mysteriously flee the island country of Costa Mora, leaving her father. Years later, her peaceful solitary life in California ends when she rescues Justin Halverson from thugs and she learns a devastating truth about her father. As she agonizes over her father, Justin comforts her, and they’re drawn closer together.

With Justin, she returns to her birthplace to get her father quietly out. There, she reconnects with her past, but can she forgive her father and accept him for who he is? Can she finally be at peace with who she is? Welcome, Reluctant Stranger interweaves a love story into a tale of past political intrigue and Leilani’s inner journey, accepting her past.


This is my third review of a book in author E. Journey's Between Two Worlds series and I have enjoyed every one. They are well written, boast intriguing plots and are easy to read (you pick up the book for what you think will be a few minutes, then are shocked when you put it down at how much time has passed). The author's mix of mystery, intrigue and romance  is sure to be a hit with readers. Each book offers strong female characters, tough life challenges to face and a love that endures despite challenges.

In book one we heard the story of Elise and Greg. Book two was a prequel in many ways where we are offered a flashback to Elise's mother story. For book three, the plot heads into new territory when Elise's brother, Justin. starts to date Leilani - a woman who had to flee her island homeland at an early age because of political intrigue. Her father was to follow them, but never appeared. No one seems to know what happened to him.

When word comes he might still be alive, Leilani has to return to her country of birth and navigate a minefield of deceit to find out the truth. Mixed into this story line is her growing relationship with Justin, a partner who is at her side to support her in any way he can and is determined to win her heart.

Kudos to the author for offering not just a great read, but tucking in a bit of insight as well. Setting down roots in a new country can be challenging. How does one keep their culture, but find a way to embrace that of your new home. Returning for a visit to your birthplace, it also becomes evident how much you have been changed. Immigrants can find themselves feeling "between two worlds." Where is home?

This is a great series. I think you should read it in order from book #1 through book #3. but each can easily be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.

Buy the book here: Amazon

Meet the Author
To read a behind the scenes interview with author E. Journey - click HERE.

E. Journey is a realist who thinks she has little imagination. Credit that to her training (Ph. D., University of Illinois) and work in mental health, writing for academics and bureaucrats, and critiquing the work of others. She’s been striving ever since to think and write like normal people.

She’s a well-traveled flâneuse—a female observer-wanderer—who watches, observes, listens. And writes. A sucker for happy endings, she finds enough that depresses her about real life, but seeks no catharsis by writing about it. For her, writing is escape, entertainment. She doesn’t strive to enlighten. Not deliberately. But the bias of her old profession does carry over into her writing. So, instead of broad shoulders and heaving bosoms, she goes into protagonists' thoughts, emotions, inner conflicts, insecurities, and struggles to reach balance and grow.

(note - E Journey just won the Bronze Prize in the Independent Woman Awards at SPR)

Connect with the Author: Website Twitter Facebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nina Shoroplova - Editor, Actor, Healer, Author of Trust the Mystery: Questions, Quotes, and Quantum Wisdom.

In 2014, the manuscript for my first book - Life Outside the Box: The Extraordinary Journeys of 10 Unique Individuals - was finished. Next in line was the editing process and my editor was none other than Nina Shoroplova!  While we disagreed on things like the usage of pronouns, in the end the process honed my words in a way I could not have done on my own.

Now my former editor is in the process of launching her second book - Trust the Mystery: Questions, Quotes, and Quantum Wisdom. With her upcoming launch on September 13th from 1:30-5:30 p.m. at Metro Theatre in Vancouver, this is the perfect time for me to turn the tables on her and do an author's behind the scenes Q and A. Enjoy!

= = = = 

Where were you born and what were you like when young? Any interests or early signs you would later put pen to paper?

When I look back on my childhood through 20/20 vision in 2015, I see a shy girl shopping with her mother who is holding a ration book, growing up in the aftermath of WWII in Cardiff, the small capital city of Wales. As with many children in those days who did not go to school until the age of six (kindergartens were rare), I already knew how to read when I started Grade One: my mother had taught me.

In many ways, I followed in my mother’s footsteps. She wrote a weekly column for the Western Mail for many years: twenty, twenty-five years? The Western Mail was the main newspaper in South Wales. Her column was called “People and Places”; she was very sociable and attended all the local weddings and charity events so she could write about them.

She belonged to the local amateur dramatics club—Cardiff Little Theatre—and brought that colourful world into our family lives with cast parties, play readings, and attendances at her many plays.

Even though I became a writer and an actor like my mother, personality-wise, I was more like my quiet father whose hobbies included chess games by mail (talk about patience!), fishing, and golf. Whereas Mum and my sister could be the life of the party, I am more likely to be observing from the sidelines.

My mother died in January 2014; a huge loss.

When my sister and I went through Mum’s papers, I came across two little “books” (each measuring no more than an inch by an inch and a half) that I had written, coloured, and bound with string during my first years at primary school. These were not school projects though; clearly, they were self-inspired. Amazing that she had kept them all those years. Amazing that the evidence was there, all those years ago.

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author? Was there a defining moment when you realized - I am a writer?

In school, I always felt I could write well and was frequently disappointed by the marks I would get on my English essays. And so after high school, I ignored writing—I just didn’t even consider it—and I trained at Cardiff Royal Infirmary to become a physiotherapist. After graduating, I moved to Oxford to work in the Churchill Hospital.

I emigrated to Canada in 1969, having secured a position (by mail from GB!) as a physiotherapist in the hospital in Penticton. A year later, I moved to Douglas Lake Ranch in the Nicola Valley, as the wife of the ranch manager, Neil Woolliams. Quite a switch from living in a city in Wales or England to living on a ranch in Canada.

The road out of the ranch was unpaved, potholed, and dusty. It was thirty miles to Merritt to the southwest and sixty to Kamloops to the northwest. I decided to stay home and acclimate to ranch life. I had a large house to look after and I was unaccustomed to chatelaine duties.

Bit by bit, I learned about my new home—Douglas Lake—Canada’s largest cattle ranch—and about its importance in the Nicola Valley, and in British Columbia at large. I became very interested in its history, despite the fact that history had been my least favourite subject in high school in Wales where history comprised lists of battles and kings and ancient buildings. This history was tangible—there were people still alive who had memories of the ranch’s early days, passed along to them through the oral tradition. I interviewed them and others I could find. I was entrusted with precious old stories and photographs. I began frequenting the Kamloops Museum and Archives, the Provincial Archives in Victoria, and the Museum of Vancouver. I corresponded with a retired, elderly English gentleman who had developed property later bought up by Douglas Lake. He shared some great stories. My skills at researching and my research quest rippled outwards.

Gradually, I began using all I’d uncovered to write the story of the ranch. I spent my mornings writing and continuing researching to fill in the gaps in the story.

But somehow, I still didn’t feel like a writer and only told people what I was doing on a need-to-know basis.

Douglas Lake Ranch was then owned by Chunky Woodward, President of Woodward Stores, which at the time was still very much a going concern in BC and Alberta. Having no clue about what I was up to, Chunky brought in a published author to write a history of the ranch, and that was the point at which I had to tell Chunky exactly what I was doing. He was impressed with how far I had progressed. I think finally at that point I knew I was a writer and that “my book” would reach the market place. Douglas & McIntyre published Cattle Ranch: The Story of the Douglas Lake Cattle Company in 1979. It was a BC best seller (its first print run of 10,000 books sold out right away) and it was a runner up in the Eaton’s BC Book Award that year.

It took me eight years to write that book, from first research to publication.

Cattle Ranch was barely off the press when my first husband and I and our son and daughter moved to Australia to a property we’d bought, and our family of four expanded to a family of six, with the births of two more sons, plus sheepdogs, cattle, and sheep. Five years of drought later, we sold up and returned to Canada. Another five years later again, we separated and divorced. I found secretarial work in an engineering firm in New Westminster and that’s where I met my second husband. Long story short, Christian and I just celebrated our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary a few weeks ago.

How do you approach the work of writing - specific schedule or? Do you ever struggle with writer's block and if so, how do you get past it?

I love writing and I don’t ever struggle with writer’s block. And I love the organization that writing requires. My challenge is not so much procrastinating or struggling as getting through all the other tasks I set myself first, so my desk is clear enough to get on with what is always a pleasure—writing. One of the ways I managed to write almost daily on my second book was to write only on my laptop in our favourite local café rather than on the PC at home. Without my ever-present to-do list staring me in the face at the café, I was able to concentrate on writing.

So my husband and I “went for coffee” quite regularly. He “takes the sun” outside and I write on my laptop, enjoying the feel of the keys plopping under my fingers and the sight of the words piling up on the page.

The ideas (book title, subtitle, headline, chapter topics, etc.) for my next book are already fully formed. I even have 16,000 words written. But I don’t feel ready to continue writing that book yet because of where I am with my second book: Influence is publishing Trust the Mystery: Questions, Quotes, and Quantum Wisdom on September 7, and the all-important work of promoting my book will take precedence for a while. Once I am coming down the other side of the bell curve of promotional activities for Trust the Mystery, then I will start the enjoyable task of writing my third book. Meanwhile, the ideas for it continue to percolate on the back burner.

Trust the Mystery has taken me six years. I’m hoping that my next book will take just four! Or less.

I know you have several career paths in addition to writing - all represented by the S.A.G.E. logo on your website. Can you share with readers what S.A.G.E. stands for and a little about the other paths you pursue.

Thanks for looking at my website, Marilyn. I really have to align my online presence with where I’m going. And that keeps me busy because I feel as though I’m evolving all the time.

The SAGE acronym is new for me. Merriam Webster says sage means “wise through reflection and experience.” That seems right for the moment. After all, I’m nearing the end of my seventh decade of experiencing life and I’ve done huge amounts of reflection on my life and the lives of others. So, I must either be a sage or a slow learner. I hope I’m the first.

S is for the word Spiritual. I’ve been on a spiritual path since the seventies, gradually allowing spirituality to take a more central part in my life. I recognize that I’m a spiritual being living in a physical body rather than the other way around. I struggle with religion and, while I am an active member of my local Anglican church (choir member, reader, healing minister, and past website manager), I have also explored other religions, philosophies, and practices. Currently, I am listening with heart to James Twyman’s daily A Course in Miracles Revival sessions ( and to IANDS’ 2014 Conference main sessions ( IANDS stands for International Association for Near-Death Studies; I’m a co-leader of the Vancouver group of IANDS and I’ve signed up to livestream IANDS upcoming 2015 conference.

A is for the word Author. Well, we’ve talked about that.

G is for Guide. I truly feel that each of us is here on Earth as both a student and a teacher. There are always people whom we follow and people who follow us. For a while I worked as a Soul Realignment Practitioner, helping each client understand his or her specific path and purpose in this life. I was working as a guide, helping illuminate their path so they could see their way more easily.

Trust the Mystery, my second book, is a testament and guide for being fully one’s self. I’ve written it as a series of personal anecdotes that demonstrate the tools we have for impacting our lives—our emotions, senses, feelings, chakra abilities, thoughts, decisions, plans, and actions—but the stories are so simple that readers will be able to use them as platforms to observe and reflect on their own lives and, thereby, to be guided to the next stepping stone on their personal path.

E is for Editor. I’ve been editing other people’s writing since the 1980s, working as newsletter publisher, correspondent for the federal government, structural editor, substantive editor, copyeditor, proofreader, and writing coach. I’ve been with Influence Publishing as their senior editor for just two years, but in that time, I’ve edited (structural, substantive, and copy) and/or proofread or production edited over forty authors’ books. My absolute favourite task in book editing is structural editing: helping an author get the best out of their manuscript by showing them where the extraneous material is, where the story falls short or is unfinished, where it leaps across a chasm that will lose their reader, where the story is out of order, where it loses continuity. I’ve worked on spiritual books, inspirational writing, fantasy, business and financial books, nature and exercise books, nutritional and health books, and more. My strength is in the spiritual, inspirational, and self-help genres, but I love it all.

I am curious if being a professional editor who has helped to polish and fine tune the work of other authors has changed or affected your own writing in any way?

Working as an editor has certainly broadened my knowledge of the topics covered—as a substantive editor, I check every single fact presented by an author. For instance, did such and such an event really take place on that date and was that the actual name of the happening?

And being steeped in the spiritual field myself, I am very much at home editing books in the spiritual, inspirational, and self-help genres. I share my learning with my authors and I learn from them in return.

Has being an editor changed my own writing? It must have, but a clear answer to that is elusive. Whereas I used to work hard at dividing up my process of writing from my process of editing my own writing, I believe that now I can keep on my seasoned editor’s hat and gently edit as I write, looking for those pieces of extraneous material, repetition, chasms, and gaps in a story, and so on. I think I have greater awareness of the reader as I edit my own material. But it’s still way harder than editing someone else’s writing.

Please share with us about the launch for your new book Trust the Mystery: Questions, Quotes, and Quantum Wisdom on Sunday, September 13, 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at Metro Theatre. Why did you choose to write it and what do you hope readers will take away from it?

For the longest time, I knew I was going to write a second book but I couldn’t zero in on my exact topic. I knew it would have a spiritual core and that I would somehow be guiding my readers, but I didn’t know much more than that. So I just wrote and gradually the flotsam and jetsam fell away and my topic presented itself:

“The more we trust the mystery, the closer we align with our true nature.” That’s the one liner on the back cover of my book. And it’s as true about writing this book as it is about living life.

Trust the Mystery: Questions, Quotes, and Quantum Wisdom.

· We trust by accepting and allowing;

· the mystery is the perfect synchrony and harmony of life that defies human rationale and logic;

· quantum wisdom speaks about that deepest level of life where all is energetic potential

· at the quantum wisdom level, we are most surely connected with our wisest self who already has all the answers to all the questions we ever want to ask ourselves.

· The quotes are there because someone else has always said what I want to say far better than I ever could.

What do I hope my readers will take away after reading Trust the Mystery? A greater awareness of the integral nature of their role in life, in their community, and in their environment; the importance of their lives and how they are already where they should be, going in the right direction.

With all you're involved with, what do you do to help clear your mind, relax and put a smile on your face?

I spend time with family and friends, I sing, I act, I play bridge, I have a mocha at our local Blenz café. I write lists and ignore them so I can get on with something that’s more pressing. I make a routine of morning exercises and drinking lemon water as many mornings a week as I can. I manage to immerse myself in whatever I’m doing, so whenever the time comes up for the next thing, I find I’m having to tear myself away from whatever I’m doing. But soon, I’m immersed in the next thing. And on it goes. And I choose to be happy.

I would love to close with a favourite quote if you have one.

I heard this one again yesterday. Deepak Chopra says, “Be happy for no reason.” Great advice!

Mike Dooley of TUT—The Universe wrote recently, “Maybe it's not just about finding the perfect friend, partner, or tribe, Nina, but finding the perfection in those you've already found.”

What I take from this is that wherever we are in life is perfect: we are precisely where we should be, doing the right thing, with the right people. But often we struggle to be doing something else, somewhere else, in the future, in the past, anywhere but where we are. I want to accept and allow that where I am is perfect; I want to trust the mystery that is the perfection and the potential that energizes life.

Links (email
LinkedIn Nina Shoroplova
Facebook Author Page

Interview D.K. Smith - Author of Mind Over Bullies

Q and A with author D.K. Smith!

To read a review of Mind Over Bullies and enter a the author's fabulous Giveaway - Click HERE!

Mind Over Bullies: A Mob Forms by D.K. SmithWhere were you born and what were you like when young? Any interests or early signs you would later put pen to paper?

I am the second of 6 children (5 boys and 1 girl). I was born in Los Angeles, California, a chubby kid that loved rice and sweets, which I still do. But I exercise more these days so I am not chubby anymore. I was always into creating things, I loved to draw and I loved music. I always wanted to sing, but I never pursued it. My parents enrolled me in tap-dance and piano classes, but I didn’t have the appreciation for it that I do now, so I gave up on those things. Of all the things that I did enjoy, nothing pointed to a possible career in writing.

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming an author?

Early on, I would say around the 4th grade, I was encouraged to explore creative writing. I have always had a love of telling stories but like I said in the previous question I never would have imagined making a career of it. The boys in my family all played basketball growing up, so naturally I figured on playing pro ball as a career like so many other young men, but of course that didn’t happen. In fact, at age 13 Earvin “Magic” Johnson told me to make sure to get my education, because pro basketball wasn’t likely to be in my future. He meant it as a reminder of just how tough it is to make it playing pro sports and I took his words to heart.

In the 10th grade my English teacher Arthur Schulman and my creative writing teacher, I forget her name, both encouraged me to continue to sharpen my writing abilities. I guess they saw something that I didn’t at the time. Honestly, my thoughts were still on playing basketball.

It wasn't until much later that I considered writing as a serious endeavor. The start for me was a children’s book for my oldest niece; Sock n Boots Adventures. I got a rush from the way children and parents responded to the characters and the short stories. From there I began to explore a wider variety of topics and genres.

Snippet of interview with D.K. Smith

Where do you find inspiration for your storylines? The characters you create?

The best stories come from real life. I look for things that by themselves wouldn’t make a good story, but with some creativity and a cast of compelling characters can be built on. For example, I ran into a good friend in a Barnes & Noble one day. He was reading a book on lucid dreaming. From that brief exposure to the topic of lucid dreaming, my curiosity grew into a book that I will be releasing later this year. The story has been described as a cross between Inception and Back to the Future. The story centers on a created theory that the human mind can interact with the past through memories. I titled it, Actuality. That’s just on example of how random thoughts can spark a story for me.

The same for the characters. I watch people. I see how people respond to situations and listen to the things they do and say. Some traits are interesting and just fit with a particular story. I take one or two basic traits and from there I let the character evolve. Some characters are created or evolve based on the progression of the story. It’s weird, I just try to keep the characters authentic without being too structured in how I create them.

How do your organize your time when working on a new book? Research? Working on Manuscript? Pre-marketing?

My writing process in totally unconventional. I don’t do character sheets, I don’t do tons of research in advance. I just write. As the story calls for research, I do it. But rules tend to kill my creativity. Once I get an Idea in my head I start writing and let the story lead me.

The pre-marketing/Marketing process for me has become refined over time. Once the project is edited, I go about setting up blog tours and reaching out to major reviewers and news media. I don’t spend much time on it, because I’ve found that there are only a few marketing tools that are worthwhile, interviews like these are amongst the most effective. So I would like to thank you for having me.

Interview with D.K. Smith on Bullying being downplayed.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

The single most exciting part of the process to me is actually watching the story evolve. Like I said earlier, I let the story lead me, so it is an adventure. A close second is cover design. The cover for Mind Over Bullies is simple, but it’s powerful. So many people have commented on how they would be curious about the book just from seeing the symbol on the cover.

Marketing is by far, the biggest chore. It is a necessary part of the process, but I would prefer to be creating. The one exception is creating marketing tools, promotional items. I loved

Mind Over Bullies is your first YA book. It offers thrilling action, but also a strong anti-bully message. I know that message is one you feel strongly about. Please share a bit about what lead you to write this story? Is Mind Over Bullies the first of a series?

I began reading various articles about “Bullycide” (suicide caused by bullying). The shocking thing for me was that it was happening so frequently that the media had coined a name for it. In fact, I’ve read about at least 3 new incidents of bullycide since May of this year.  The news stories I was reading just broke my heart. These young kids felt like life wasn’t worth living. I began to think about my nieces and nephews. What if they ever began to feel that way because of being bullied? I wondered.

So, the motivations were mainly my little nieces and nephews, and just a sadness from seeing teens kill themselves because of being bullied. My hope was to create a story that would point to there being a life worth living after suffering through bullying. One character in the story experiences that and I want readers to grasp that point.  And yes, this is part 1 of 2. Part 2 is going to have even more action and one major surprise amongst the other plot twists. It should be ready for release sometime in 2016.

Interview - D.K. Smith on his motivation for writing this story

What would you most like readers to know about you. 

I want readers to know that I greatly appreciate their support and I am looking to hear from them all. I love crowd reaction, it’s one of the main reasons that I write. Here is a link for them to preview the first 3 chapters of Mind Over Bullies: A MOB Forms I would love to hear what they think of the preview by emailing the publishing company at or they can tweet me directly @A_MOB_Forms  It all goes to the publishers, but I see it all.

Do you have any advice you can offer for budding authors just beginning this journey?

Simple, tell stories that excite you first. Don’t write what you think people want to hear, write what you feel. The stories are more exciting that way.

And I would like to thank you for taking the time to interview me today. Getting a chance to interact with bloggers like you and by extension, your readers, is at the heart of what makes writing stories worth it.

Interview - D.K. Smith shares wha

Connect with the author: Website Facebook ~ Twitter

Mind Over Bullies: A Mob Forms by D. K. Smith

"People that feel bullied just need to toughen up. That’s what Margo Rios used to think.Margo is pretty, popular and unsympathetic to just how intense bullying can get. As a counterfeiting plot sweeps through the city of Oak View however, life for Margo changes dramatically."

Synopsis -

Margo is pretty, popular and unsympathetic to just how intense bullying can get. As a counterfeiting plot sweeps through the city of Oak View, life for Margo will change dramatically. With a mystery unfolding, an unlikely group of heroes emerges. Bullied teens love them, the police hate them and bullies fear them. Together they will try to get to the bottom of the counterfeiting mystery while ingeniously teaching a few bullies a lesson or two along the way… that is, if the police don’t catch them first.

Review -

I was delighted to be chosen to read and review Mind Over Bullies as all three of my kids struggled with this problem - the oldest to the point the community police had to step in. How would author D.K. Smith offer a novel that captured the YA reader's attention and weave in his anti-bullying message? I was intrigued. The biggest challenge for me at the start was stepping back into that YA mindset. Having raised three avid readers, I consumed YA books right along with them, but it's been a few years.

To say this book has a complex plot is an understatement. You have a bullying theme, a counterfeiting theme, a second location overseas and a little side plot thrown in (why is Preston so interested in Matthew?). I will offer absolutely no spoilers - you'll have to read Mind Over Bullies to find out. Despite the numerous threads, the story hangs together well - something I can assure you as a fellow author is not easy.

When my kids were growing up, I always looked for YA books with strong female role models for my daughter, so was pleased to see a girl - Margo - as the main character. Her journey from bully to bullied is offered early on to set the tone for what is to come. To help keep the YA readers attention, Smith presents very extreme examples of bullying - not totally unheard of, but outside the standard of what most teens face - to bring home the message of the hell the victims experience on a daily basis. After a personal crisis point, Margo gathers a few other outsiders to try to educate the bullies, hoping to bring about a change of attitudes.

The way these teens tackle the bullies is also very extreme - not something the average kid could pull off.  However, this is meant to be a both a work of fiction and an exciting read that will entertain the YA reader while passing on the important anti-bullying message. I think the choice to go this direction helps accomplish both. What bullied kid wouldn't want to pull off some of those M.O.B. stunts? My kids certainly would have loved to. Again - if you want to know what I'm referring to - you'll just have to pick up a copy.

The only weak point for me was a single plot twist right at the end - a bit of a stretch given the story to this moment.  BUT - it offers a great lead in for future books and I have no doubt this will become a series. Have YA readers in your house that love intrigue? I think they'll enjoy this one.

Buy the book: Amazon

Meet the author 
(To read a  Q and A interview with D.K. Smith click HERE):

A 38 year old native of Los Angeles, Mr. Smith began his writing career after getting news that he would soon become an uncle. Wanting to create stories and characters for his expected niece, he created the children’s book series “Sock n Boots Adventures.” The two characters (three year old Sock and five year old Boots) began to make names for themselves, generating downloads in countries around the world.

When asked about his motivation to tackle the subject of bullying in a 108,000 word novel Smith said, “One day I came across a story in the news about a young girl that jumped in front of a subway train after weeks of bullying. As I investigated further, I was shocked at the number of similar stories I encountered. Bullycide, the news was calling it. I thought, wow, what if these young people had been shown that the pain of bullying can be handled without hurting themselves or someone else.”

Ultimately it was thoughts of his now four nieces and three nephews dealing with bullying as they get older that weighed heavily on the decision for Smith to write the story about bullying. “I recognize that the characters and situations in the book may not represent every bullying situation and that realistically the book won’t change the world, but I do sincerely hope that it sends a subtle message about there being life after bullying. We’ll just have to see how the public receives it,” Smith said.

A lover of mystery and espionage stories, Smith is a fan of everything James Bond. A favorite scenario is to see a character in an impossible situation get out of it at the last second or have the odds against them and see he or she turn the tables. Acting on the love of espionage and mystery, Smith has a new novel in the works centering on a James Bond-type character of his own creation.

Connect with the author: Website Facebook ~ Twitter

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I'm going to say right at the start - while Selma is one great movie and I'm glad I watched it, it wasn't comfortable. This is reflected in the scores on Rotten Tomatoes where critics give it a 99% and audiences an 86%. The subject matter is disturbing. Who wants to believe such hatred exists amongst ordinary, every-day people?

I was 9-10 years old during the time the movie shines a light on and buried in Mitchell, South Dakota. There was no internet and only one local TV station.  We only heard the news we were allowed to hear and I do not remember seeing or hearing about most of this. Shocking! At the end of the movie, I could only comment on the amazing bravery of the people who supported King's movement and be appalled by the hate I saw. It truly is beyond my comprehension.

The movie is focused on the events leading up to the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. These were turbulent times in the U.S. While segregation was no longer strictly legal, many parts of the South did not welcome the change. There were still separate schools and public facilities in many places. Inventive ways had been found to keep African Americans from accessing their rights. In this movie the focus was specifically on the right to vote..

While Selma starts at the 1964 ceremony where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace prize, the direction of the film quickly changed to a church bombing that killed 4 young girls. When King later meets with current president Lyndon B. Johnson, we are given a clear idea of the number of murders that were happening in the south at that time to African Americans/ Their killers were not being brought to justice. No one investigated. It was killing with no consequences and was happening on a daily basis.

There were some surprises for me.  While King was a known pacifist and pushed for non-violent protest, it turns out he was looking for a place to march that would respond with violence. He wanted the world to see what was happening in the U.S. They had tried once before in a different town, but the sheriff was too smart to take the bait. They moved to Selma because the sheriff there was known to be a reactionary.

That said, I do believe King was shocked when some lost their lives. The aim was a peaceful protest that received a physically violent response - something that would spur the president to push for change. I do not believe death was anticipated. Things didn't go according to plan. One poignant moment for me was when King was talking with LBJ and noted the president had called the wife of a white clergy who had been beaten to death to express condolences, but had not done the same for any blacks that had been killed.

Selma was directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It premiered at the American Film Institute Festival in 2014, began a limited US release on December 25, and expanded into wide theatrical release on January 9, 2015, two months before the 50th anniversary of the march. Selma had four Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Motion Picture – DramaBest Director, and Best Actor, and won for Best Original Song. It was also nominated for Best Picture and won Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lola's Money by Rosanna Rae

Lola's Money by Rosanna Rae
'Lola's Money' is the author's fifth novel; 
she is currently writing her sixth book. 


Lola French is stunned when she wins millions on the Lottery, and she is sure all her dreams are about to come true. However, right from the start, before she even claims her winnings, things begin to change and she separates abruptly and acrimoniously from the man she has been living with.

Lola’s colleagues are initially pleased for her, but eventually begin to resent her new status. One of them, Tom, whom she really likes, asks her out; but he does it on the day that news of her win spreads through the office and she sadly turns him down. She decides to leave her job as a Financial Adviser in Edinburgh and explore the limitless possibilities of her new lifestyle.

When Lola and her mother excitedly set off on a Mediterranean cruise, it’s not long before they both meet men they are interested in. However, their holiday of a lifetime catapults them into a life-changing sequence of dramatic and terrifying events that neither of them will ever forget. When she has to return to reality, Lola unexpectedly finds herself involved with Tom again! But the storm clouds are looming overhead, and as the recent past catches up with her and forces her to confront violence and danger once more, Lola risks losing Tom forever.


Lola's Money is labelled as contemporary women's fiction, but I always prefer to use the term "chic lit." It refers to a style of fiction writing aimed particularly at the women's market and it's meant to be light, enjoyable, fun and wonderful escapism.  Author Scottish author Rosanna Rae brings us a story that is just that - a great read to whisk you away from life's demands.

The story-line follows a twisted plot divided into three sections - what happens in main character Lola French's life after winning the lottery, plot twists and turns that arise when she and her mother embark on a cruise, and then lastly dramatic, unexpected troubles that arise once she is back home.

What I actually loved best about this book was the opening story-line that follows Lola French's lottery win. While initially a celebrated event, we learn that not all the fallout is pleasant. Rae really manages to bring home how suddenly coming into wealth can affect your relationships with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Things shift in a way that is totally out of one's control and those who treat you the same are few are far between.

From there we head on a wild journey that features adventure in foreign lands, evil intentions, love lost and found, and in the end great danger. So set aside an evening in your favourite comfy chair and if you are so inclined, add a nice glass of wine to sip.

Buy the book Amazon

Meet The Author

Rosanna Rae is married with three grown-up sons and lives in Livingston, Scotland. She has a B.A. (Open) in Social Science subjects and also took a writing course with The Writers Bureau some years ago. She spent 16 years at home raising her family and then returned to full-time secretarial employment in Edinburgh.

Rosanna has wanted to write fiction since she was ten years of age, after reading an abridged version of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. She is delighted to be now fulfilling that early ambition.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Check out author Rosanna Rae's guest article - My Journey to Becoming a Published Author

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My Journey to Becoming a Published Writer by Rosanna Rae, Author Lola's Money

My Journey to Becoming a Published Writer

Guest Post by Rosanna Rae, Author of 5 books including Lola's Money
To read a review of her latest release - Lola's Money - and enter to win a copy click HERE!

My journey to becoming a published writer began in much the same as any other writer’s experience. I bought the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and wrote to every appropriate publisher. Most of them wrote back to me saying that they had read the sample of my work I’d sent them and felt it to be well-written and enjoyable, but that they were not taking on any new writers because of the financial risk. 

I was first published by Melrose Books and then by Austin & Macauley. However, as both of these publishers are considered vanity publishers (which I wasn’t aware of at the time), neither of them managed to get my books onto the shelves of any bookshops, so I decided to start publishing my own work. I now produce printed books using CreateSpace and also publish eBooks using Kindle Direct Publishing.

Another question I am often asked is why I name my books using the same format, e.g. ‘Lola’s Money’, ‘Karen’s Affair’. There is actually a good reason why I make them so specific rather than using a well-known phrase or saying, which is what most authors do. When I wrote my first book, I gave it the title ‘Living a Lie’. It was published by Melrose Books in 2007. 

At that time, I believed that book titles came under copyright laws, and that because the publisher accepted the title, then it meant that no one else had ever used it and that no one would be able to use it in the future. As it turned out, I was wrong about the copyright situation. There are so many books published these days that the law on copyrighted titles had to be abandoned.

When I first looked on the Amazon website to see my book, I discovered that there were a couple of other books with the same title. One of them was by a very famous writer of historical romance, Josephine Cox. I was gutted. My very first book, which I had thought was unique in every way, had the same title as previously written novels, making it seem as though I had simply reused someone else’s title. It was too late to change it once it was published. 

That’s when I decided that I would start making the titles more specific, using (except in the case of April’s Man) the heroine’s first name and also giving an indication of the theme of the book – secrets, dilemmas, affairs etc. That’s why my titles are all presented in the same format: Lynsey’s Secret (which is a reprint of Living a Lie), Jo’s Dilemma, Karen’s Affair, April’s Man and Lola’s Money.

= = = =

About the author:

Rosanna Rae is married with three grown-up sons and lives in Livingston, Scotland. She has a B.A. (Open) in Social Science subjects and also took a writing course with The Writers Bureau some years ago. She spent 16 years at home raising her family and then returned to full-time secretarial employment in Edinburgh. The author has wanted to write fiction since she was ten years of age, after reading an abridged version of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. She is delighted to be now fulfilling that early ambition. 'Lola's Money' is the author's fifth novel; she is currently writing her sixth book.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter
Order her books click HERE!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Peach and Avocado Summer Rolls With Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Peach and Avocado Summer Rolls {Katie at the Kitchen Door}I was recently invited to a Bridal Shower and offered to bring something along to add to the menu as this was a great friend - like family to me. She is a vegetarian who also eats gluten and dairy free. One thing the host did was send me links to some of the future bride's recipe postings her Pinterest as suggestions. What a great idea as it would be a chance for her to try some that had caught her eye.

After perusing several, I decided I wanted to do rice paper salad rolls as I have always loved them and had made my own version before. Two were mentioned and I decided to bring some of each. The first was a more traditional Vietnamese-sytle Salad Roll with homemade Peanut sauce. As I had made them before, I was interested in this recipes homemade peanut sauce in particular. While the rolls turned out as great, they were nothing outside the norm and the peanut sauce was a bit too salty and thick for my tastes. I served them with a store bought peanut sauce instead.

The second recipe, however, was really unusual. I couldn't wait to try it. While the recipe was posted on a blog called Katie At The Kitchen Door, in the article the author was clear it came from a cookbook called The Vibrant Table: Recipes from My Always Vegetarian, Mostly Vegan, and Sometimes Raw Kitchen by Anya Kassoff of Golubka Kitchen. I may have to snag a copy as these were divine.

These summer rolls offer a unique, fresh mix of tastes including peaches, avocado, spinach, pistachios, basil and mint.  The flavour of the dipping sauce is anchored by Tamarind - an unusual taste that is hard to find a substitute for.  My problem was I couldn't find the required Tamarind Paste. All I could find was a Classics Tamarind Chili Sauce by Western Family at Sav-on Foods. I adjusted the dip by taste to get the flavour I thought best. I also left out the hazelnut oil from the original recipe as I didn't see it at the store either and in the end, they were great without.

Below I have offered the recipe as originally posted - minus the hazelnut oil - as well as what I did to create a dipping sauce using the the chili sauce I found. If you want to try the original with the Hazelnut oil, click HERE.

= = = 
Peach and Avocado Summer Rolls with Tamarind Dipping Sauce
Makes 15 rolls.
Original Sauce (I suspect this will be quite thick. If so, think with a little warm water.)
4 T           Smooth almond butter
2 T           Tamarind paste
1 T           Maple syrup
1 T           Grated fresh ginger
1 tsp         Soy Sauce or Gluten Free Soy Sauce.
My version using Classics Tamarind Chili Sauce by Western Family from Save-On Foods
(note - added a little warm water as I found it too thick for dipping)
4 T            Smooth almond butter
4 T            Tamarind Chili Sauce
1 T            Maple syrup
1 T            Grated fresh ginger
1 T            Gluten Free Soy Sauce
2 T            Warm Water
2               Medium ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1               Lime
3/4 C        Pistachio nuts, chopped
3-4 oz.      Baby spinach
3               Medium peaches, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
1/2 C        Fresh basil leaves
1/2 C        Fresh mint leaves
15             Rice paper wrappers

Sauce -
I always feel a food processor or Magic Bullet is best for these kinds of sauces. Add ingredients and pulse until it is the consistency you like. It can be done with a wire whisk if you prefer, but the ginger won't get incorporated as completely. Taste, and adjust to your personal preference.

Rolls -
Place the avocado slices in a shallow dish and squeeze the lime juice over them. Lay out the chopped pistachios, the baby spinach, the basil, the mint, the avocado and the peach slices on a plate (or two).

Fill a large bowl with slightly warm water. Soak the rice paper wrappers in the warm water one at a time, submerging each wrapper evenly and soaking briefly. They continue to soften, so be cautious. As you remove each wrapper from the water, fill it immediately: place 1-2 peach slices in the middle, top with 2-3 avocado slices, a handful of spinach leaves, a few basil or mint leaves, and a small spoonful of pistachios. Don’t overfill the wrapper, as it will be difficult to roll.

To roll it, fold the ends of the wrapper up over the filling, then roll to close. Repeat until all your filling is used. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

(Note - this makes the lightest wrap. BUT it's very fragile if your wrappers are small. I sometimes soak two and overlap them so there is a 1 inch free edge on each side to fold in. It makes it easier to handle, but the trade off is you get more rice wrapper taste when eating.)

How Can You Support An Author You Know?

As an author who just released their first book in February 2015 - Life Outside the Box: The Extraordinary Journeys of 10 Unique Individuals - I am asked this question often by my amazing group of supportive friends and have started to put a lot of thought into it. To say it's complicated is an understatement, but I'm learning a little more every day. alone currently lists over 8 million titles with over 1300 new ones hitting their digital shelves every day.  If an author's book has a strong niche market it can be a bit easier to promote, get media attention and ultimately sales. When an author is breaking new ground and offering something different - it's an uphill battle requiring a lot of courage and perseverance as you have to create a readership for this type of book.

Being Social Media savvy is a must and some financial investment will need to be made for promotion. Friends, family, business associates and other supporters can also make a huge difference in getting the momentum going. Here are a few suggestions of how you can help an author and I have brazenly included the links to my sites. Feel free to look for other authors at these sites as well. Here we go - 

1.  Whether digital or print - BUY THE BOOK! If there are pre-sales available on Amazon, that's a great way to go as all those sales are recorded on the day it is officially available, making it easier to hit a best seller chart the first time. Being able to say you're an Amazon best seller can open doors. Not a lot of dollars to spend right now? The digital versions usually cost about the same as a cup of fancy coffee from Starbucks.

In Canada -

In the U.S -
Barnes and Noble

2. Rate and review!  I personally sold over 100 copies and would be absolutely thrilled to have each of those people rate and review my book online.,, Chapters/Indigo and Barnes and Noble will let you review a book if you have set up an account with them and ordered at least one thing - anything. If you've actually purchased the book from this site, it shows as a verified review and holds a little more weight - but EVERY review helps keep an author's book higher on the list when people do searches. is another wonderful site. You set up a free account and then enter the books you are reading or have read. You rate and review the books once you're finished. Great if you're an avid reader.

3. Follow the author's page on Amazon's Author Central. Here the author can have a RSS feed, a bio, all the books written by them will be shown and if they choose, they can list upcoming appearances and events. You can also interact with the author by asking questions.

4. Follow the author's blog if they have one. There are usually several ways to do this.  I have listed my blog on Bloglovin' and Networked Blogs. You get a notice if a new post is made.  You can also follow it by entering your email which does the same thing. Each author will have a different way to deal with following their blog or website.

5. Join the author's email list to receive a monthly newsletter. Not all author's do this, but it can offer a lot of interesting material. I receive one each month from a spoken word poet/published author and in it he includes a new, unpublished poem. I am just working on setting up an email account and creating a unique concept for my own newsletter, so be sure and check back.

6. Like their professional page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, Instagram and other Social Media sites. Like, comment and retweet whenever you can.

7. Lastly, and I can't stress this enough - tell others.  Word of mouth can be very powerful. I have often read books on the recommendation of others. Most authors would also love to come and speak with small groups about their work - book clubs, networking events, rotary clubs, you name it. If you hear of a group looking for a speaker - pass their name on. If you know someone who does interviews on TV, Radio, Podcasts or has a YouTube channel, pass on the author's name. Visibility is the greatest gift you can give.